Sean Strickland welcomed Abus Magomedov to the top level of the UFC middleweight division in punishing fashion as he finished the Russian-born German in superb fashion at the UFC Apex.
The pair faced off in the main event of UFC Vegas 76, as Magomedov, whose only prior UFC appearance resulted in a 19-second knockout win, was handed a harsh lesson of just how tough the top of the UFC can be.
Magomedov came into the bout riding high on confidence, and started aggressively in the opening round. An unfortunate early eye poke left Strickland in distress and needing a lengthy portion of his five-minute injury timeout to recover before he could continue. But, over the course of the round, it was Magomedov who appeared to be landing the better work.
But, after some advice from head coach Erik Nicksick and teammate Chris Curtis in his corner between rounds, Strickland upped his output in Round 2 and seemingly couldn’t miss.
The American’s controlled aggression was just too much for Magomedov to handle, and Magomedov’s body language transformed, going from confident to demoralized as Strickland started to turn up the heat. After backing his man against the fence and battering him with a multi-punch combination, Strickland sensed victory was near. Then, after backing Magomedov against the fence once again, let fly with more shots until Magomedov went to the ground and referee Mark Smith dived in to end the fight and give Strickland the 27th win of his career.
After his victory, Strickland called for a shot at the UFC middleweight title. But, with the championship picture looking a little congested, with former champ Robert Whittaker facing Dricus du Plessis next weekend at UFC 290, it’s likely the American will need one more impressive win before he gets his wish.
Dawson dominates for shutout victory
The co-main event saw a display of complete domination by Grant Dawson, who claimed the 20th win of his career with a superb display to defeat Damir Ismagulov in their lightweight bout.
Both men were thought to be dangerous fringe contenders in the UFC’s 155-pound division, but it was Dawson who came out of the bout with real momentum after completely shutting down Ismagulov in the Octagon, then shutting him out on the judges’ scorecards, which read 30-26, 30-27, 30-27.
Dawson’s domination was down largely to a smart application of his wrestling and grappling, coupled with excellent control and positioning on the mat. It meant knockout artist Ismagulov was nullified at source, as Dawson controlled the action on the ground throughout.
After his unanimous decision victory was confirmed, Dawson called for either a big name or a big rank for his next matchup, naming Tony Ferguson and Beneil Dariush as potential options that fit the respective categories. He then told reigning lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, “You are the GOAT, but I am your replacement.”
Bold words, but if Dawson continues his upward momentum, it might not be long before a meeting with the Russian becomes a possibility.
Elsewhere on the main card, rising Ecuadorian prospect Michael Morales showcased his continued development with a strong performance against gritty veteran Max Griffin in their 170-pound bout.
Morales pushed the pace from the very start and used his height and reach advantage to good effect as he connected with strikes from range on the always-game Griffin, who was unable to stem the tide.
The fight went all the way to the scorecards, but it meant that we got to see a full 15 minutes of Morales in action. And, after those 15 minutes, Morales’ perfect professional record improved to 15-0, with the judges all scoring the bout 29-28 to the 24-year-old, whose ceiling at welterweight looks sky-high.
There were also significant victories for Benoit Saint-Denis and Nursulton Ruziboev, who claimed eye-catching first-round finishes in their respective bouts.
Saint-Denis moved to 11-1 with a rear-naked choke finish of Ismael Bonfim that snapped the Brazilian’s impressive 13-fight win streak, while Ruziboev knocked out Brunno Ferreira in just 77 seconds to complete a dream UFC debut for the Uzbekistan fighter in his 45th professional fight.
The preliminary card also served up some spectacular performances, with Russian welterweight Rinat Fakhretdinov needing less than a minute to render former lightweight contender Kevin Lee unconscious with a guillotine choke, while Brazil’s Joanderson Brito showcased his vicious ground and pound to finish short-notice replacement Westin Wilson mid-way through the first round of their featherweight matchup.
There was also a spectacular victory for Brazilian lightweight Elves Brener, who stunned Guram Kutateladze in the third round to claim his fourth straight win, and his second consecutive victory under the UFC banner.
UFC Vegas 76: Official results
- Sean Strickland def. Abus Magomedov via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:20
- Grant Dawson def. Damir Ismagulov via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
- Michael Morales def. Max Griffin via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Ariane Lipski def. Melissa Gatto via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
- Benoit Saint-Denis def. Ismael Bonfim via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 4:48
- Nursulton Ruziboev def. Brunno Ferreira via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 1:17
- Rinat Fakhretdinov def. Kevin Lee via technical submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 0:55
- Joanderson Brito def. Westin Wilson via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 2:54
- Karol Rosa def. Yana Santos via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
- Elves Brener def. Guram Kutateladze via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 3:17
- Luana Carolina def. Ivana Petrovic via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Alexandr Romanov def. Blagoy Ivanov via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)